Masaan is a film which falls in the real zone
Born and brought up in Mumbai, but unlike most Mumbaikars Shruti Kapoor was never interested in films. Though armed with a degree in fashion designing, the Costume Designer of the internationally acclaimed film, Masaan, didn’t dream of being part of the film industry. Shruti gets candid about her journey into films, designing clothes for Masaan and the kind of films she wants to be associated with.
During your growing up days, did you always desire to be a Costume Designer?
During my college days I did aspire to have my own brand but movies weren’t really on my mind. When I was in school I used to think of becoming a doctor, that’s like the story of every child.
So how did films happen?
It happened by fluke. The first film that I assisted on was Ishq Actually in 2011. Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly was my second film as an assistant. I even assisted on 24 (TV series) but it was quite hectic for me. I left it in four months and did a short film (as a Costume Designer) called That Day After Everyday which was directed by Anurag Kashyap. I’m glad that I left 24 and landed up this short film which was my first project as a designer. My first feature film was Rajesh Pillai’s Traffic which is remake of a Malyalam film by the same name. But Masaan, which is my second film will release before Traffic which is slated to release in September. I was also the wardrobe supervisor for Detective Byomkesh Bakshi.
You’ve done three projects with Phantom – Ugly, That Day After Everyday (short film) & now Masaan. Tell us about your experience and association with the team.
It wasn’t really the same team but yes, the company was the same. The experience with Phantom is good. They treat you like family which is the best part.
What was the best thing about working on Masaan where almost the entire crew was below 35?
The best part about working on Masaan was it’s director Neeraj Ghaywan. At the very beginning itself he told each one of us that even though he is the director, anyone could go up to him and give any kind of inputs that one thinks is valuable for the film. Life is easier when you have such a director. He was open to all sorts of ideas. We decided costumes much before the shooting started. Later our research team that was in Banaras told us that the costumes should have more of blue in them. So just a night before the shoot I told Neeraj that I had to change some costumes into blue and he immediately agreed. Though this is a small thing but such small things matter a lot.
The director and writer of the film developed the script by travelling to Banaras for their research on the Dom community. Did you also visit Banaras for references?
I went to Banaras only seven days before the shoot. Therefore all my sourcing is from Mumbai except stuff like gamcha, dhotis, fabric used for draping during their ceremonies etc. Rest everything is from Mumbai. My biggest research point was Neeraj who would click pictures of the people whenever he visited the place. Moreover he has been to the place quite often so he closely knew those people. Banaras is a completely different place. If you just watch and observe people in Banaras, you would find that the characters over there are unique by themselves. But Neeraj’s research wasn’t my only research. Even I had to work on it for which Instagram came handy. Hashtags such as Banaras or Varanasi or any hashtag related to Banaras helped me a lot. I still have 1000 screen shots in my phone.
From designing costumes for a lower-caste young man in love with an upper class girl, a daughter torn with guilt to a father sinking in greed, what was the special part about designing costumes for such diverse characters?
I read the script around three times during the initial stages and each time I’d have a new image in my head related to the costumes. Things started by conversing with Neeraj about what he exactly wanted. Now while designing clothes for Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) and Shaalu (Shweta Tripathi), the challenge was that they both belonged to the same region but from different castes. Costumes will play a major role in showing that difference. For Deepak’s clothes, we were head strong about repeating his costumes as that would show the background and class he belongs to. The fact that his clothes were aged with a pinch of black ash as compared to Shaalu whose costumes were colorful or not aged, did that for us.
When I suggested denims with kurtas for Devi’s (Richa Chadda) character, Neeraj didn’t agree for it. As Shaalu belonged to an upper class, I thought perhaps she can wear denims but again Neeraj was crystal clear that he didn’t want to give denims to his characters. Sanjay (Mishra) Sir’s character is one of my favourites. I loved working on it. Another interesting thing was designing the look for five kids between the age of 8 to12 years.
What other instructions did you get from Neeraj before you started working on the film?
He said we are not going to iron the clothes at all. Another thing he was firm about was that Deepak’s character would be wearing a banyan (vest) under the shirt every time he comes on screen. There are various such details that Neeraj helped me with.
What was the most challenging part of working on Masaan?
The entire film was a big challenge for me. The director spoke to me about the film a year before we started working on the project. I knew I would do Masaan even before I started with Traffic. Hailing from a modern place like Mumbai, it was a task to show a society which is rooted in it’s culture and quite orthodox. The biggest challenge was to show Deepak’s side of the family. But it was quite rewarding when Dipa De Motwane, the film’s co-producer, said that everything looked authentic. I didn’t want it to look like we are trying too hard. And to make things look real, not everything is supposed to be in place; certain mismatching is also required.
Though most of the cast was new, were there any inhibitions while designing clothes for established actors such as Richa Chadha and Sanjay Mishra?
Absolutely not! Both of them are down to earth and always gave me feedback when I needed it. In fact Sanjay Sir even gave me inputs for the look of his character by suggesting costumes which he thought would help in the betterment of the look.
The look and the feel of all the characters is real and worn out. Did you age them yourself?
We aged the clothes in order to bring the feel and make the characters look close to reality. But in some cases it was impossible to age them. So we exchanged new dhotis with old ones from the dress wala from whom we usually rent out clothes.
An interesting thing with indie films these days is that they are boosting new talent. Do you think the acclaim you’ll get with Masaan will act as a window to commercial cinema?
Any film you do, you just need to keep up your hard work. Each film will open some kind of window for you. Masaan is a film which falls in the real zone. So now there might be people from the indie bracket who would want me to be part of their project. In commercial cinema things are usually not real but commercial projects will also happen step by step.
Is there any particular genre of films that you wish to design costumes for?
Period films are often challenging and excite me a lot. I would love to do any period film that has been made in India.
Are there any directors or actors on your wish list ?
I think I would like to work with all of them. Definitely with people like Vikramaditya Motwane, Dibakar Banerjee (with whom I’ve worked in Byomkesh Bakshi), Anurag Kashyap etc.
Who are the costume designers that you look upto?
I look up to Rushi-Manoshi. I think they are fabulous and do their work so well that there is a lot to learn from them. Also I like Anaita Shroff Adajania’s work because it is very inspiring to see the way she styles people.
Tell us a little about your upcoming projects?
Currently I’m doing a web series and an advertisement. Post Masaan I don’t want to do projects that I’m not happy doing. I want things to happen at their own pace. Masaan touched me for it’s script. Similarly I want my future projects to be driven out of passion and not only for the sake of money.
– Navleen Kaur Lakhi